Review Summary: The dawn of a new era.
Listening to Jazz music is such a surreal experience. The atmosphere is often full of intensity, and what I mean by "intense", I'm not necessarily referring to the sound of the music but the artist that is creating it. The compositions are often improvised, and the musicians seem to disappear into a different realm. And within this realm, the only thing that exists is the musician and their instrument. They develop a synergy with their instrument, it becomes a part of them. Another form of communication. The instrument becomes a window into their soul, their mind, and their creativity. And the sounds that are released are like another form of expression, the kind of sensations that no arrangement of words could ever describe. Miles Davis knows this experience all too well.
The 1960's was certainly an interesting era in time. There was this urge for experimentation that just captivated everyone. Segregation had just come to an end as white individuals and minorities were beginning to experiment with coalescent communities. Hedonism was also growing in trend, as the usage of drugs and sexual promiscuity was beginning to be seen in a less condemning light. Obviously, this would grow to have a tremendous effect on music. Music began to become much more abstract. Musicians began seeing music as much more than just something to listen to, but something to get lost in. Artists begun to push music into different directions, becoming much more experimental. The late 60's was a transitional period in Miles Davis' career, as he too fell into this urge for something different. Miles In The Sky
is now seen as the stepping stone into a new era for Miles Davis. Miles In The Sky introduces a growing interest in the usage of electric instruments, such as the keyboard, bass, and guitar. This album is often seen as the first from his "Electric" period. The compositions of the album come from different sessions, and we can truly see the stages of Miles Davis' evolution from acoustic Jazz to Fusion music. Again, this album was just the first step, and the electric touches are not as prominent as in the latter albums.
We begin with "Stuff"
. Already we can hear the usage of an electric bass and a Rhodes piano within the composition. The piano arrangements are fast paced, yet the drumming and wind instruments show a little more restrain, though often erupting into a more passionate delivery in variation. Overall, this is still the Bop-styled Miles we have heard before. "Black Comedy"
and "Country Son"
represent the acoustic section of the album, and are some of Miles' final orchestrations using an acoustic quintet format. "Black Comedy"
is very lively and aggressive in nature, while "Country Son"
displays a more atmospheric tone. But now let us move on to the perhaps most well-known composition from the album, "Paraphernalia"
. The composition displays one of the first electrical guitar arrangements in Miles' music. "Paraphernalia"
turns bop inside-out, with intense eruption of solos appearing and vanishing in a modal or free space, and interludes of quick changes on every beat, not as accompaniment for solos, but just stated on its own.
There is such intense musicianship within Miles In The Sky. Of course, Miles is the star of the show, but I must mention the drumming of Tony Williams. He was merely a teenager when he first joined Miles Davis' Second Great Quartet, but his dexterity for the instrument is astonishing. He was 23 during the recording for this album, and his feel for the drums is such a mind-blowing performance. Despite its abstract cover art and its name, "Miles In The Sky", this album doesn't contain the psychedelic atmospheres that are found in Bitches Brew
and In A Silent Way
. In fact, this album is often overlooked and it's a shame because this is perhaps one of Miles' most historic releases. Not only because it marked the beginning of Miles' "Electric era", but this was one of the defining albums for Jazz Fusion. This was a release that would not only grow to influence the Jazz world, but even transcend to inspire several rock artists. This is an album that must be heard by Jazz fans, especially any admirer of Miles Davis.